Shameless Indulgence: Spicy Chicken Quesadillas

Over the weekend, I was incessantly hungry, and so I ate.  A lot.  I don’t know what was with me, but I would eat and then be hungry an hour later no matter what.  So I indulged, and it was glorious.

One such indulgence was this VEGAN Spicy Chicken Quesadilla, made with good old-fashioned commercial store-bought products.

I’m doing a juice cleanse later this week (for a review), so when I’m detoxing like crazy, I’ll know where to point the finger of blame…

Spicy Chicken Quesadillas 006…right here^

Here is how I made it:
1) I sauteed 1/2 a yellow onion (diced), 1 clove of garlic (minced), 1/3 of an orange bell pepper (diced), and 1/2 a jalapeno (minced) in 1 tsp. of coconut oil over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes.  I seasoned it with a little salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, and cayenne.
2) When the veggies were starting to get slightly tender, I tossed in 6 strips of Beyond Meat southwest style strips (cubed) and browned everything together, another 3 minutes or so.  [Note: this makes enough filling for two quesadillas.]
3) I removed the veggies from the pan and set them aside.  In the same pan, I placed a corn tortilla (I use Trader Joe’s) and topped with about 1/3-1/2 cup Daiya pepperjack style shreds.  I warmed it for a minute until the Daiya started to look slightly melty.
4) I scooped the veggie and “chicken” mixture on top of the Daiya, then covered it with another corn tortilla.  I warmed it another minute, then flipped it and cooked it 1-2 minutes more until the Daiya was totally melted.

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5) I used a pizza cutter to slice it into four wedges, then topped it with salsa and feasted.

Is it 100% whole foods?  No.  Is it oil-free?  Negative.  I’m okay with this.  Hell, I’ve got a lot more Daiya and Beyond Meat to finish up so I’ll probably make it again (maybe after the cleanse though).  It was delicious.

Now for some real talk.

Sometimes I just need a little vegan junk food in my life.  I don’t have to feel shame when I indulge or when I buy and cook with convenience food.  Instead, I’m choosing to celebrate this weekend’s shameless indulgence by sharing it with all of you!

Food guilt is something I’ve been pondering a lot recently.  Laura recently wrote a post about letting go of food judgment and I think it was one of the things that set my wheels turning.  The trigger for me to finally write my own follow-up to her post was the minute of hesitation I felt today about sharing this not-terribly-healthy, semi-homemade “recipe,” worried about the reactions it would get.

As a food blogger, I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking and writing about food.  I am perpetually reading other people’s blogs and viewing glimpses of the food they eat and lifestyles they lead through the lens of my computer screen.  In turn, I open up on this forum and share parts of myself, my kitchen, my home, my marriage, with people all over the world.

I never consciously compare myself to others but lately I’ve wondered if it’s possible to not do it at least a little bit on a subconscious level.

We all have to make choices every day that pertain to our diets, our health, our work, our lifestyles.  These choices depend on our individual needs, body composition, constraints on our money and time, and any other number of things.  There is no one perfect model or perfect solution.   What works for one person will not necessarily work for another.

Another blogger isn’t “better” or “worse” than you because he or she uses Daiya in recipes, or doesn’t.  Another blogger isn’t necessarily “healthier” than you because he or she drinks a green smoothie for breakfast every. single. day.  We all should do what works for us as individuals.

It’s also important to keep in mind that what you see on someone’s blog or website is only what they choose to share publicly, and represents a very small portion of who they are.  Just because someone chooses to do, say, a themed week of salads on their blog doesn’t mean that they only eat salads and are somehow more “virtuous” than you.  I mean, maybe they do/are.  Or maybe they’re just picking a theme and sharing some nice recipes.  Either way, it’s not a contest of who is “better” or “healthier.”

I think we need to let go of food guilt and food judgment once and for all.  I don’t exactly have a solution for how to do this, as I’m clearly still working through it myself.  But I’m certainly ready to confront it, and I welcome the dialogue.

Thanks for reading if you’ve gotten this far!  As always I would be interested to read any of your thoughts in the comments section.

Fun with Daiya, a Confession, and a Giveaway!

I recently had a chance to have some fun in the kitchen with the king of Vegan Cheeseland, Daiya.  [Disclosure: Daiya Foods provided me with free product vouchers, which I used to obtain the items discussed in this post.  However, I was not compensated for this post and all thoughts and opinions are my own.]

At the end of the post, I have a free product voucher that I’m giving away to a lucky reader, if one exists (see below).

I am a longtime fan of Daiya’s vegan cheese shreds, and have used them for years on everything from pizza and grilled cheese to burritos and quesadillas (the pepper jack flavor is particularly awesome for this use, btw).  All Daiya products are dairy free (obvs), gluten free, and soy free.

Beyond the cheese shreds, Daiya now makes frozen pizzas (!), as well as wedges, slices, and cream cheese style spreads in a variety of flavors.  I used one of my vouchers to try this one:

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The first thing to do, obviously, was spread it on an everything bagel.

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And add a tomato slice.

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I really enjoyed the cream cheese spread.  Before applying it to the bagel, I tasted it plain and my first thought was that it tastes like Daiya.  I mean, duh, right? But if you’re familiar with the ubiquitous mozzarella style shreds, then you can easily imagine the taste I’m talking about…mildly sweet, a little tangy, plus this particular one also has a subtle oniony flavor that went perfectly with the flavors of the bagel and tomato.  This makes a great, quick vegan breakfast for a busy workday morning.

I also picked up a bag of the cheddar style shreds, with which I made cheesy breadsticks:

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To make these, I simply took a small roasted garlic ciabatta loaf, sliced it into four pieces, then spread each piece with Earth Balance and sprinkled it with garlic salt, Daiya cheddar style shreds, and dried basil.  I toasted it at 350 in my convection toaster oven until the shreds were melted and was rewarded with these.

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As you can see from the picture, I served them along with a Tomato Fennel Soup from this VegNews recipe.  [Sidenote: I adore this recipe, but not as a soup, surprisingly.  It cooks up more like a marinara sauce.  The best marinara sauce you’ve ever had, but sauce all the same.  It was absolutely perfect for dipping the cheesy breadsticks.]

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So, cream cheese on a bagel and cheese shreds on bread are nothing revolutionary.  Worry not; I did attempt something a little more bold with these two products, and producing some pretty outstanding Daiya Jalapeño Poppers.

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I fried half of the peppers and baked half of them.  The recipe below contains instructions for both methods.

Daiya Jalapeño Poppers
Yield: 20 poppers
Time: 35 minutes for baked; 25 for fried
Gluten-free customizable

10 jalapeno peppers, halved and seeded
6 oz. Daiya cream cheese style spread, either plain or chive & onion flavor (about 3/4 of a container)
1 1/2 cups Daiya cheddar style shreds (I bet the pepper jack flavor would be awesome as well!)
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 cup non-dairy milk, preferably unsweetened (I used soy)
1/2 cup flour (I used all-purpose)
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/16 tsp. paprika
1/16 tsp. chili powder
1/16 tsp. garlic powder

If frying:
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Canola oil for frying

1) If baking, preheat the oven to 350F.  Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.  If not baking, begin with step 2.

2) In a bowl, cream together the Daiya cream cheese style spread, Daiya cheddar style shreds, and cumin.  Use a spoon to fill each pepper half with the cream cheese mixture.

3) Place flour in a separate shallow bowl, then add salt, pepper, paprika, chili powder, and garlic powder and stir until well combined.  Place non-dairy milk in yet another small shallow bowl.

For baked poppers: 4a) Carefully dip each stuffed pepper half in the milk and then dredge in the flour.  Place coated peppers cut side up on the baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, until the filling is gooey.

For fried poppers: 4b) Carefully dip each stuffed pepper half in the milk and then dredge in the flour.  Place floured peppers on a baking rack and let them dry for about 10 minutes.  While they are drying, place bread crumbs into a separate bowl.

5) When the peppers are dry, dip them again into the milk and then roll them in the breadcrumbs.  Place them back on the baking rack for about 5 minutes while you heat up the oil.

6) Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  I used a 3-quart saucepan and filled it with just enough oil so that the peppers would be submerged.  If you have a thermometer, the oil temperature should come to about 350 degrees.  If, like me, you don’t have one, then simply test the oil by adding a tiny pinch of breadcrumbs to it.  If the oil bubbles around the crumbs, it’s ready for frying.

7) Add the peppers to the hot oil one or two at a time and fry until the coating is golden brown.  Be really careful to avoid spatter!  I fried each pepper for exactly 1 minute; this was all they needed.  It shouldn’t take more than 2 minutes regardless if your oil is properly preheated.  Remove from oil and drain on a paper towel.

Enjoy immediately.

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I wish I had better pictures to show you, but I was in a hurry to eat these because they smelled SO GOOD and because they really do need to be enjoyed hot.  H and I ate them during Sunday Night Football so the darkness didn’t help either.  But trust me, they were absolutely delicious.

The baked poppers had kind of a chewy crust that reminded me a little bit of the outer edges you would get on a well-done omelet.  I thought it might taste kinda burnt but it actually had a ton of salty flavor that I loved, and did a good job protecting the gooey insides from spilling out everywhere.  The baked poppers were for some reason spicier than the fried ones.

The fried peppers were a little more al dente, but the filling and breadcrumbs stayed put beautifully.  The filling also stayed soft and melty throughout.

H and I agreed that we both liked the fried poppers better, but in a way that’s like saying you’d rather sleep in on a Saturday morning than go to the office.  Deep fried is going to taste better 10 times out of 10.  I do think that the next time I make these (and I will be making them again) I will use bread crumbs on the baked ones too, because I think that was another factor that gave the fried ones the edge.

For more ideas of what you can do with Daiya products, visit their recipe page.

As I mentioned way back at the beginning of this post, I have a free product voucher from Daiya Foods (good for any Daiya product up to a $5.99 value) that I will mail to you if you win.  All you have to do is leave a comment on this post telling me what product you most want to try.  Open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only.

Daiya Coupon

And Now the Confession…
This is the first time in over 5 years of blogging that I’ve ever attempted to give something away, or really even had something to give away.  I have actually been feeling pretty nervous about doing it, and have even procrastinated putting up this post, because I’m insecure that no one apart from, like, my dad reads my blog and I’ll get no comments.  No seriously!  But I finally figured that worst-case scenario is that no one comments and I get to keep the voucher for myself.  So I’m going for it!

Enter if you want free stuff!  I will select a winner with a random number generator in the next week and notify that person by email by the end of the day on Wednesday, November 6.

Vegan on the Cape

I hope everyone had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!  Especially all of the folks who traveled to Portland, Oregon for Vida Vegan Con.  It’s hard to express how jealous I am, especially after catching up on ~100 recap blog posts about all of the great food and great personalities that were there.  I want to go so badly!!!  Not because I’m some great blogger, but I feel like I could learn a TON from all the other bloggers who are so much more prolific and talented than I.

So then I got to thinking that if it were held on the East Coast next year I would try really hard to go.  And that of course led to, “Well, obviously they would have it in New York or D.C. or even Asheville.  Definitely not Boston though.  This place sucks for vegans.”

That kind of thinking isn’t constructive, of course, and moreover it’s not entirely true.  There are some solid veg and veg-friendly establishments in and around Boston, including some newcomers (like the Walnut Grille in Newton).  I can’t overlook these, especially considering that I provide information about them right on my own blog.

But there’s also the all-too-familiar experience of perusing scores of online menus only to find that these are virtually identical at 98% of establishments (read: steak tips, fish and chips, wings, chicken parm, burger, buffalo burger, bacon cheeseburger, onion-rings-plus-some-other-fried-crap-on-a-burger).  [This is obviously an exaggeration, but not by much.]  Your luck typically will not improve the further you travel outside the city.  This is what makes me feel like my city could never measure up to places like Portland.

What’s with all the doom and gloom?

Basically I’m just setting up for the upswing, which is a big reveal about all of the wonderful vegan food I accidentally found this past weekend…ON CAPE COD!

It started on Friday when H and I sought out a lunch spot in Hyannis after spending some time in the JFK Museum and Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame.  Directly across the street is a place called Schooner’s.  They had a nice and really affordable lunch menu so we went right in.  I got the Falafel appetizer and it was gigantic!  And quite tasty.  The tahini sauce was particularly delightful, and the salad was nice and fresh.

Schooner's Falafel

Now, I know that an omni place having a falafel or hummus appetizer isn’t exactly earth-shattering.  But as I had expected a very seafood-heavy menu I was impressed not only with the availability of veggie options but by the quality with which I was rewarded.

After we ate lunch, we walked around town a little and discovered that there is actually a vegetarian/vegan cafe called Green Lotus right on Main Street!  Apparently it just opened on March 29, 2013!  My dumb ass of course hadn’t bothered checking HappyCow because I just assumed that there wouldn’t be any veggie establishments.  You see what happens when you assume?!

Anyway, I couldn’t not give them some business, so I got Vegan Chowder to take out.

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It was sort of weird, but oddly tasty. Creamy and rich without being heavy.  It had giant chunks of oyster mushrooms to mimic clams, which I found highly amusing.  Apparently they have entered it in Chowderfest this year, which is a bold and wonderful thing for them to do.

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Green Lotus also had an awesome-looking sandwich menu and there is no doubt that I will go back to try it.  I really hope this place takes off!!!

The biggest surprise of all came on Sunday afternoon.  After H and I went for a long bike ride through Chatham and Harwich, we were starving and stopped at a place we know in South Chatham called the Box Office Cafe.  We had only ever been in once before late at night but their outstanding beer selection made an impression.  I knew it was mainly a pizza place so I figured I’d order some cheeseless and go from there.

So here’s how it went down.  H and I sit at the bar.  I open the menu to the “create-your-own” pizza area and something immediately jumps out at me: “Substitute Daiya – $3.”  I exclaim, “You guys have Daiya?!”  The bartender says, “Oh yeah, we have a whole vegan menu!  Look on the next page.”  I die.

I ended up ordering the vegan Alexander the Great, which is essentially a buffalo chicken sandwich.

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This sandwich was spicy and delightful.  There is nothing else to say.  Next time I want to try the True Romance!

And, while I have really and truly been trying (and largely, outside of the holiday weekend, succeeding!) to eat clean, whole foods, knowing that this place is an option for me going forward is absolutely wonderful.  It’s like Peace o’ Pie never closed but just did like other Bostonians do and retired and moved across the Sagamore bridge.

So, in closing, I offer that 1) it was a splendid Memorial Day weekend, and 2) Boston and/or Cape Cod & the Islands (already a key vacation destination for folks all over the world) would be a wonderful place to hold a vegan blogging conference.  Just sayin’…

P.S. – Totally unrelated but I can’t get enough of this:

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Sabra Greek Olive hummus.  I can’t even.